Science of

Lewis & Clark

September 20, 2005

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In 1803 Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were instructed by President Thomas Jefferson to:

SextantA. Map a new route to the Pacific Ocean
B. Make contact with the Native Americans
C. Obtain specimens for further study
D. Keep a full record of activities during the Expedition

Read Jefferson's instructions)

     At that time very little was known about the uncharted West. Even though they didn't find a water route across the continent, their 2000 mile journey uncovered about 300 species of plants and animals unknown to science, many Indian tribes, and the Rocky Mountains. They described the geology and geography along their route, collected and took notes and made drawings of minerals and gems and made meteorological (weather) and astronomical (stars, planets and space) observations.

     RaccoonWhat Lewis and Clark found was surprising and marks an important time in the history of the United states, in mapping the North American continent, and in discovering the abundance of natural wealth of our land.

This website explores:
The Science of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Read about : Meriwether Lewis Meriwether Lewis   William Clark William Clark

Follow the Interactive Trail Map ( from PBS) as Lewis and Clark mapped the west from St Louis to the Pacific Ocean.

You can read their actual journals online.

Mission Facts

Large Map of their Route

     13 Line Ground Squirrel

Lewis had to do some preparation to complete his assignment. Jefferson sent Lewis to The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to learn how to scientifically describe specimens, how to preserve plants, how to skin animals, and how to navigate. He had great powers of observation.

     Clark studied astronomy and cartography (study of and making maps) and is responsible for most of the record-keeping and making the maps. Lewis and Clark were researchers. The Science of the Expedition    

Roosevelt ElkAt this website, Lewis and Clark as Naturalists from the Smithsonian Institute, an interactive map allows you to browse for species discovered by date, location and species. There are photos, descriptions, movies sounds and the journal entry.

In all their work you'll notice that they focused on details such as "How fast is the river's current" or "What kinds of rocks are these?"
Lewis and Clark were great scientific observers and researchers!!!

Mapping with Lewis and Clark

Their Maps

Modern Mapping

Cartography, What is a Map?

More about the Natural History along the Lewis and Clark Trail

CamasPlant life         Bison Animal Life

From the Bitterroot National Forest:
Bitterroot Wildlife

Bitterroot Birds
Bitteroot Plants
Lewis and Clark looked at details of Fossils, Volcanoes, and Geography, too.
Some people thought that Lewis and Clark might find dinosaurs on
their journey. Did they find them? Fossils
Lewis and Clark 's Geography
The Volcanoes
of Lewis and Clark

The Expedition Trail crosses rivers, canyons, ranges, forests, plains, plateaus, and the Continental Divide. It covered (then and now) some of the largest undisturbed tracts of sagebrush steppe habitat. These terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water) habitats support a large variety of wildlife and plant species. The Nez Perce National Historic Trail still has some high quality native habitat. (just like it was back then)
Take a look... Plants and animals along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

Continue your expedition with Lewis and Clark by visiting these links to some of the 120 different mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish and over 180 plant species that were discovered along the trail.
Lewis's Woodpecker American Bistort
Clark's Nutcracker Spiders on a Stick
Western Tanager Baneberry
Moose Douglas Fir
Bison Common Snowberry
Bull Snake Bitterroot, Montana state flower
Pronghorn Antelope Plants of the Lewis and Clark Trail from Clearwater National Forest website. (Shrubs and Plants by color)
Lewis and Clark Science
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